Ask an Australian where Belize is and most will give you a blank stare, not having a clue where this small nation belongs. I too was one of those – the Caribbean/Central America region just doesnt feature in the news over here, i guess because we are so far away and these countries are not the ‘typical’ tourist destination for the average Australian. So it was with intrigue when i crossed the border, and discovered this new found country. After the relatively easy border crossing from Mexico we went straight to Belize city, where a small boat (and i mean small, it was like a tiny wooden dinghy) would take us across to Caye Caulker. The ride was ok for a boating person like myself, but lets just say, the ocean was a bit choppy and there were a few people who were desperate to get off! haha.
Once we arrived we checked into these gorgeous painted wooden bungalows right on the beach. It was heavenly. Caye Caulker is so small, that to get around its 3 main streets you can of course walk, or hire little golf buggies to go around the island. There are no cars. The motto of this backpackers paradise is “go slow”, and while the signs are, i think, more directed to people on golf carts, it is taken literally for people who are visiting as well – go slow, enjoy the caribbean breezes, relax and chill out! 3 days of bliss was to come….
Our first full day on the island started with a lazy walk to the one and only bank, to get some moolah, and then to the bakery a few buildings down, where a yummy ham and cheese quiche and a sweet bread with jam were consumed by yours truly. The bakery on the island is absolutely fantastic, and pointed out to all the people who come to the island – cheap and yummy food. After a lazy breakfast sitting on the beach myself, Tim and Roz took a boat trip for snorkelling. The Caribbean reefs around Belize are world famous, and for good reason. While our day was a bit windy and choppy, it was very protected and the snorkelling was magnificent! Our first stop was the “South Channel” of the reef. For 45 minutes we stayed here, exploring amazing coral formations and of course, a myriad of brightly colored fish. How i wish i had an underwater camera back in those days! From here we chugged on to “Shark & Ray Alley’, which as the name suggests, is where all these sharks and rays hang out and you can swim with them. It took a while for me to get in…. even though these sharks are “tame” i still found it a bit disconcerting. But i was here, and had to try it, so in i went. It was freaky – having the rays swim up and rub their bodies against mine, eeks, so gross! This was even before the days of Steve Irwin (the crocodile hunter) getting killed by a stingrays long barb. If that had happened before you would have never seen me in the water! After this amazingly unique experience we went on to our third snorkel spot, known as the “Coral Gardens”. The colors of the coral here were amazing, a real colorful garden in the sea.
After such an action packed day of snorkelling adventures, nothing finished the day off better than some chicken & fish, cooked fresh on a roadside BBQ. So cheap, so fresh, and so tasty! Then of course it was on to the “Lazy Lizard” – a popular drinking spot on the very northern tip of the Caye. Our new favorite drink, the ‘pantyripper’ was consumed aplenty (a pantyripper is a rum, pineapple and coconut cocktail) While here we learnt from a local that the other part of land we could just see like 100 metres from the bar was actually once joined to the land we were standing on, but Hurricane Hattie ripped through the island, and formed a deep channel of water. So effectively, Caye Caulker is now smaller since it got split, and the Lazy Lizard now has like 320 degrees of water around it, instead of of only 180 it might of once had. Hope that makes sense. 🙂
The next day was another go slow day of course, but a few of us wanted some action, so we decided to hire a golf buggy. For BZ$20 we could hire this fun little cart, so between the 4 of us it was very cheap. We drove around the town, past a church, and past the local school. The children were coming out of class, and laughed at us as we drove past. One cheeky kid jumped on, got his ride, then jumped off when he got home, waving and laughing at us as we continued on. Once out of “town” we went into the forest preserve, which is full of swamps and mangroves. Of course, the man of our little tour (Tim) got us bogged deep in mangrove swampy mud, and we all had to get out and push the cart out. After ripping some burn outs in the mud (closet bogans we be!) Charlotte then drove and stopped at the end of the island’s runway, and of course, we couldnt get the cart to start again. A Tropicair plane was beginning to take off, some workers at the airports “arrivals hut” were yelling out to us to get out of the way,and once again, out we were, pushing the cart out of the way!! The plane took off way before the end of the runway anyways, but still, i guess it could of been a bit sketchy if things didnt work out to plan!
After our adventure, it was fresh tropical juices at Julia’s Juice Bar, a swim at the end of the pier, and another lazy sunset at the lazy lizard. The next morning we continued our journey, on a calmer ride back to Belize City, and off to the inland town of San Ignacio. Never did i think leaving a tropical island would be so hard!!!